Couple-based interventions for psychopathology: A renewed direction for the field

Donald H. Baucom*, Jennifer M. Belus, Caroline Bliss Adelman, Melanie S. Fischer, Christine Paprocki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


This article provides a rationale and empirical support for providing couple-based interventions when one partner in a relationship is experiencing individual psychopathology. Several investigations indicate that relationship distress and psychopathology are associated and reciprocally influence each other, such that the existence of relationship distress predicts the development of subsequent psychopathology and vice versa. Furthermore, findings indicate that for several disorders, individual psychotherapy is less effective if the client is in a distressed relationship. Finally, even within happy relationships, partners often inadvertently behave in ways that maintain or exacerbate symptoms for the other individual. Thus, within both satisfied and distressed relationships, including the partner in a couple-based intervention provides an opportunity to use the partner and the relationship as a resource rather than a stressor for an individual experiencing some form of psychological distress. The authors propose that a promising approach to including the partner in treatment involves (a) integrating intervention principles from empirically supported interventions for individual therapy for specific disorders with (b) knowledge of how to employ relationships to promote individual and dyadic change. Based on this logic, the article includes several examples to demonstrate how couple-based interventions can be focused on a specific type of psychopathology, including encouraging empirical findings for these interventions. The article concludes with recommendations for how clinicians and researchers can adapt their knowledge of couple therapy to assist couples in which one partner is experiencing notable psychological distress or diagnosable psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-461
Number of pages17
JournalFamily process
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


  • Couple therapy
  • Couple-based interventions
  • Couples and psychopathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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